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What’s the Deal with Pickeball?

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By Phil Swain 

Are your friends suddenly out shopping for paddles and talking about pickles all the time? Or are you one of them, itching to get back on the court and shout “Dillball!”

Whether you have friends that play it, or you play it yourself, pickleball seems to be the new trend that everyone wants to hop on.

The game was born in 1965, when Joel Pritchard, a congressman with a passion for golf and badminton, went to play with his kids in the backyard. It started out as a fun game that the whole family could enjoy, and has now grown to a cult following world-wide, particularly among older adults. In 2023, there were an estimated 36.5 million players in the US. The sport has seen a growth of 158% over the past 5fiveyears. The paddle market alone is worth a whopping 152 million dollars. The sport is booming! Why is pickleball so popular?

First of all, it’s a lot less painful to learn the rules of mahjong, or an intricate card game that your cousin has to explain for 45 minutes before you can play: it’s easy to learn, fun, and beginner friendly. It is also a strong source of community and socialization, which is perhaps why it appeals to an older population (approximately 17-20% of players are 65 years of age and older). Pickleball offers a ton of benefits — however, as pickleball grows, so do a lot of injuries.

As more people enter the sport, there is an increasing number of pickleball related injuries, such as strains, sprains, and fractures. Analysts estimate that in 2023, there will be 67,000 emergency room visits, 366,000 outpatient visits, and 9,000 outpatient surgeries from pickleball alone. Does this mean it’s time for you to hang up your paddle and retire all the cool new terms you’ve learned? Of course not. It’s time to stop being a “weekend warrior” and prepare for your pickleball sessions the right way.

If you got picked up by the pickleball train in the middle of a sedentary lifestyle, and pickleball is your only source of movement, you may very well do too much too fast.

It’s important to build up your strength slowly, by doing other forms of exercise.

Pickleball requires balance, hand-eye coordination, and agility. You can find local classes that work on these specific skills: balance and stability, strength and endurance, reaction time and agility. Even your brain would enjoy a mini workout, by solving a puzzle or exercising your memory. All of these modalities will increase your ability to play pickleball to your heart’s content – and you’ll feel even better about your overall health.

The better you prepare and take care of yourself, the better your game will be! If pickleball got you off the couch, well done – now use that as motivation to form a practice that strengthens your body as a whole, so you can play better, longer, and safer.

Phil Swain is the founder of Q4Active in Woodland Hills, which offers a variety of strength training classes. Call (818) 961-5353. 

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